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Friday, February 11, 2011

The joy of being served tea and biscuits by Jasim

Wonder if you would agree or not, but one of the silent pleasures of working in a company in Bangladesh lies in the privilege of ordering someone else (usually the office tea boy/girl) for a cup of tea or a black coffee and getting served straight at your desk when you must be crunching numbers with your open excel spreadsheet or are about to start that all important meeting with visitors. I always had full respect for these support service staff but never realised the luxury they used to offer us until I started working full time outside the country. I guess we carry the culture from our households where we grew up seeing our houses being cleaned, food being cooked and cars being driven by ‘others’ who were hired or kept to do such jobs only. So naturally when we get into workspaces, we could not get over that hard-coded habit of ‘being served’ the little refreshments of another day at work.

But honestly, would you really expect the same treatment when you are outside Bangladesh? May be you would silently miss that, like I do, but would you actually go to the extent of bringing someone over from Bangladesh to execute the same responsibilities? I did come across Jasim, the ‘imported from Bangladesh’ tea boy, here in London while attending a meeting owned by a British Bangladeshi gentleman. Most of the workplaces here have a kind of ‘serve yourself’ policy in designated kitchens, or you might see your hosts preparing your desired caffeine option before the start of any meeting. But to my surprise when my host ordered for some tea and biscuits to a nicely dressed young man, he jumped to his routine duty of boiling the water and pouring the biscuits on the plates for us. As I was being served by Jasim, I could not help asking my host how could he afford to have the luxury of having a tea boy in west London for such a small company as his. He explained rather proudly that he had brought Jasim from Bangladesh to offer him a better life. I didn’t ask in detail how exactly he could bring him over. No wonder he wears tucked in shirts and nice trousers but still ends up serving tea and biscuit to his Bangladeshi master. The other Bangladeshi staff at the meeting, young graduates from private universities in Dhaka, jokingly informed me that they also sometimes call for Jasim Bhai’s services as that is what the norm is in Bangladesh, so they feel good when there is someone else to serve them tea or coffee at work – it makes them feel important and in control somehow.

So there you go, order some tea to Jasim, sip it hot in cold cold London, feel good and empowered and continue working.

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